Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Supreme Court Debates Climate Change

Not surprisingly, the conservative members of the Supreme Court were sceptical of the petitioners' case that EPA should be required to act to regulate emissions that cause global warming. Is this reluctance due to antipathy towards environmentalism, to lack of scientific understanding, or to a judicial temperament that prefers not to tackle issues that properly belong to the other branches of government? Justice Anthony Scalia expressed all three in this exchange with Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General James Milkey:
JUSTICE SCALIA: To be sure, carbon dioxide is a pollutant, and it can be an air pollutant. If we fill this room with carbon dioxide, it could be an air pollutant that endangers health. But I always thought an air pollutant was something different from a stratospheric pollutant, and your claim here is not that the pollution of what we normally call "air" is endangering health. That isn't, that isn't -- your assertion is that after the pollutant leaves the air and goes up into the stratosphere it is contributing to global warming.
MR. MILKEY: Respectfully, Your Honor, it is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere.
JUSTICE SCALIA: Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist.
JUSTICE SCALIA: That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth.
(You can download the transcript here.)
I can understand that Justice Scalia wishes that this case hadn't come before the Court; I would have prefered that our national government had dealt with the issue instead of wishing it would go away. Writing in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick compares EPA's reluctance to deal with climate change with the recalitrance of her young child:
Now, maybe it's because I have a toddler at home, but the EPA's argument, presented by Deputy Solicitor General Gregory Garre, quickly sounds very familiar. 1) I can't clean it up; 2) Even if I could, I don't want to clean it up; 3) You can't make me clean it up; and 4) China is making an even bigger mess. How come China never has to clean it up? When and if all that fails, the EPA, like my son, just puts its hands over its eyes and says there is no mess in the first place.
I'm not sure how much of an impact this case will have. Even if the Supreme Court finds for the petitioners, EPA will probably not promulgate new rules until the next president takes office. In the meanwhile, Congress is likely to force the issue on President Bush, who had promised to take action on carbon dioxide emission six years ago.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Supreme Court and Climate Change

The Supreme Court this morning takes up the case of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (Docket No. 05-1120). In 2003, EPA decided that, under the Clean Air Act, it is not required set motor vehicle emissions standards for carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and hydroflourocarbons, which are considered causes of climate change. The State of Massachusetts is petitioning the Court to send the question back to EPA with instructions to interpret the Clean Air Act to include consideration of climate change in setting emissions standards.
The entire question of climate change is not being argued today. Instead, the Court is considering two relatively narrow questions:
1. Whether the EPA Administrator may decline to issue emission standards for motor vehicles based on policy considerations not enumerated in section 202(a)(1).
2. Whether the EPA Administrator has authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other air pollutants associated with climate change under section 202(a)(1).
EPA argues (1) the petitioners lack standing, meaning they haven't established that they will be harmed by the decision, (2) EPA "lacks authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions" in this case, and (3) EPA has the discretion under the Clean Air Act to decide not to act to control greenhouse gas emissions.
The petitioners argue (1) EPA erred in concluding that carbon dioxide and other emissions that cause climate change are not pollutants under the Clean Air Act, and (2) EPA erred in concluding that it had the regulatory lattitude to decline to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
On March 14, 2001 Bush announced that he would not seek to regulate carbon dioxide, two weeks after EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman voiced the administration's intent to work within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol. Whitman had to eat her words in this announcement:
The President has been clear that the Administration does not believe the government should impose mandatory carbon dioxide emissions reductions on power plants at a time when the cost of energy is soaring in this nation.
Actually, the Bush-Cheney 2000 website provides us the transcript of a speech on September 29, 2000, in which Bush said he would regulate carbon dioxide:
With the help of Congress, environmental groups and industry, we will require all power plants to meet clean air standards in order to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide within a reasonable period of time.
It took Bush all of 54 days after taking office to break that pledge, which is why we now find the issue before the Supreme Court.
The American Bar Association posts the legal briefs presented to the Court in the current term.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Strategy and Tactics in the Class War

When critics of Republican economic policies of recent years speak out on subjects like the minimum wage, growing income inequality and rolling back tax cuts for the richest Americans, they are invariably met with complaints of waging class war.
Writing in the
New York Times, conservative commentator and cameo actor Ben Stein presents a sensible essay on the so-called class war, in which he cites one of the undisputed winners, Warren Buffett:
Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.
It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”
Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.
“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
One of the assumptions underlying complaints of class warfare is that the U.S. economy is a well-functioning free market that, left to its own devices and free of artificial mechanisms like the minimum wage, would fairly provide for all who want to work with reasonable compensation.
But the market for labor is not, for the most part, a pure spot market with constantly fluctuating prices; most of us don't negotiate our wages when we show up for work every day. (Day laborers, who do have their wages set by a spot market, don't fare very well.) Most of us work under a contract of some sort with a specified wage. Even those whose pay is based on sales commissions or other incentives know that their contracts are relatively fixed from year to year. Some of these wages are set through collective bargaining; some are established by the human relations departments. The exception are those entreprenuers whose fortunes rise or fall based on the performance of their businesses. But even people working for startups enjoy the benefits of employment contracts.
So most of us who work for a living experience a kind of floor under our wages. Sometimes distressed industries like airlines seek to negotiate lower wages, but it can't be done at the drop of a hat. Even industries that move their operations offshore have to break contracts with existing workers.

So the market for labor has numerous built-in mechanisms that limit the fluctuations of wages. Which is why I find it puzzling that one particular limitation to wage fluctuation--the minimum wage--is singled out as distorting the free market, particularly when wages for those at the top of the pyramid continues to climb.
It's not surprising that the legal and economic mechanisms that govern the way people are paid for their labor favor those with greater political and economic power, CEOs for instance. Complaints about runaway executive pay are hardly confined to class warriors; investors have been asking why CEO pay has been growing faster than returns to shareholders. After all, if CEO pay were determined by a free market, investor returns and CEO pay would roughly grow (or shrink) at roughly the same rate. Instead, CEO pay has continued to climb, in good years and in bad, for good companies and for failures, for the last 25 years.
Times today has a story on one of the mechanisms CEOs use to ensure that their wages continue to climb: the use of compensation consultants to establish peer group benchmarks, which creates the now-famous "Lake Wobegon effect" in which all CEOs are above average. All a board has to do is calculate the average compensation of their CEOs from a peer group of comparable companies. The key step is deciding to place your CEO deserves to ranked in the top 50 percent of the peer group (and few corporate boards would want to admit that their CEO is below average). The effect over time is a relentless ratcheting up of CEO pay. Former New York Stock Exchange CEO Richard Grasso used the system to jack his pay up to unprecedented levels:
One reason for the outcry was the makeup of the peer group that the exchange’s compensation committee used to determine Mr. Grasso’s pay. The group included highly profitable investment banks and financial institutions that were far larger and more complex than the Big Board, which, at that time, was a nonprofit organization.
Brian J. Hall, a Harvard Business School professor and an expert on management incentive systems, conducted an analysis of Mr. Grasso’s compensation and provided it to the judge overseeing the case that the New York attorney general’s office filed against Mr. Grasso.
Mr. Hall, hired by the attorney general as an expert witness, found that the companies the New York Stock Exchange board used in its peer group had median revenue of $26 billion, more than 25 times that of the exchange. Median assets of companies in the group were 125 times the Big Board’s assets, and the median number of employees in the peer-group companies was 50,000, or roughly 30 times that of the exchange.
As noted here last year, former DuPont CEO Ed Woolard, who became chair of the NYSE compensation committee in the post-Grasso era, has spoken out against the abusive practices used to place an ever-rising floor under CEO pay:
The NYSE experience with Grasso is a good case in point. The scandal was not just Grasso's pay, but the fact that his board didn't know what he was making. A board that lets a CEO take home enormous sums is often a board that isn't paying attention to other important matters of corporate governance.
Woolard debunks the myth that CEOs earn this pay by creating wealth for their shareholders. Decades of research has failed to identify a reliable correlation between CEO compensation and corporate performance.
By the way, what has become of the same forces of supply and demand conservatives cite when arguing against the minimum wage? Have we seen a sharp drop in the supply of would-be CEOs? Surely the demand hasn't expanded? We certainly haven't seen a corresponding spurt in the number of Fortune 500 companies.
There are other mechanisms, such as the tax code, that secure the economic interests of upper-income Americans, which brings us back to the question of federal deficits, which, as Ben Stein notes, were once known to cause alarm among conservatives:
But I thought that conservatives were supposed to like balanced budgets. I thought it was the conservative position to not leave heavy indebtedness to our grandchildren. I thought it was the conservative view that there should be some balance between income and outflow. When did this change?
Oh, now, now, now I recall. It changed when we figured that we could cut taxes and generate so much revenue that we would balance the budget. But isn’t that what doctors call magical thinking? Haven’t the facts proved that this theory, though charming and beguiling, was wrong?
Republican economic policy is built on magical thinking and the myth of the free market. If, as the evidence indicates, this myth is not supported by the evidence, what are we to conclude? Are these inequalities due to the invisible hand of pure market forces? Or do they reflect the interests of those who make the rules by which the market operates?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Financing the Federal Deficit

I've been nursing a cold and generally recovering from the election, but nothing rouses the geek within like a poorly informed discussion on the federal budget deficit. So when Jason at delawareliberal posted on the foreign financing of U.S. debt, and his readers posted the usual factually-light comments, I was prompted to actually look up the numbers.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, foreign holdings of U.S. debt at the end of September totalled $2.135 trillion, an increase of $106 billion in one year. Japan held $639 billion, followed by China, which held $342 billion.
Total foreign holdings of U.S. debt grew by $206 billion in the year ending September 29. Japan reduced its holdings by $28 billion. China’s holdings grew by $40 billion. The U.K. increased its holdings by $107 billion.
While most U.S. debt is held domestically, the foreign portion of debt held by the public is growing, from 42.7 percent at the end of September 2005 to 44.1 percent at the end of September 2006. According to the U.S. Treasury, the debt held by the public has grown by $1.49 trillion since George W. Bush took office.
Foreign holdings of U.S. debt is a perennial source of worry that foreign investors will start selling their dollar-denominated holdings, which would hurt the value of the dollar and force interest rates higher.
Another problem with the growing federal debt is that these domestic and foreign holdings soak up investment that might otherwise flow to U.S. industry. All of this has been noted before by former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin:
Virtually all mainstream economists agree that, over time, sustained deficits crowd out private investment, increase interest rates, and reduce productivity and economic growth. But, far more dangerously, if markets here and abroad begin to fear long-term fiscal disarray and our related trade imbalances, those markets could then demand sharply higher interest rates for providing long-term debt capital and could put abrupt and sharp downward pressure on the dollar.
It might help to compare the federal debt to overall U.S. investment. The $1.49 trillion in additional federal debt under Bush is not insignificant when compared to the S&P 500 market capitalization of $12.625 trillion and the total U.S. outstanding bond debt (as of June 30) of $26.341 trillion (as reported by the Bond Marketing Association).

Friday, November 24, 2006


For those interested in all things squidish, Boing Boing highlighted a blog titled Squid, devoted to the mysterious creature. Here's a photo of a giant robot squid under construction (picked up from recent post took note of this iPod cover (naturally called CephaloPod) created by queenrobot:
The giant squid (genus Architeuthis) features the largest brain of any invertebrate. Its eyes are the size of basketballs. As large as they are, giant squids are remarkably elusive; the first photographs of Architeuthis in the wild were released last year.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.
October 3, 1863
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
A. Lincoln

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mythbusters: Good Wonky Fun

The New York Times today tackles the question of whether Mythbusters the best science show on television:
Mr. [Jamie] Hyneman and his colleague, Adam Savage, are the hosts of “Mythbusters” on the Discovery Channel. It may be the best science program on television, in no small part because it does not purport to be a science program at all. What “Mythbusters” is best known for, to paraphrase Mr. Hyneman, is blowing stuff up. And banging stuff together. And setting stuff on fire. The two men do it for fun and ratings, of course. But in a subtle and goofily educational way, they commit mayhem for science’s sake.
Mythbusters is good wonky fun, which is why it's my favorite TV show. Hyneman and Savage take urban myths and find ways to test them; at the end of each episode they declare a myth confirmed, plausible or busted. They have become geek gods so to speak, to the point of getting their own Lego figures.
As the
Times reports, the show isn't scripted:
Part of what makes the show compelling for so many viewers is its unpredictability. “Once you get it going, whatever it does is what it does,” Mr. Hyneman said.
But, he said, “Whether we get what we expected or not, any result is a good result — even if it’s that we’re idiots.”
“Failure,” Mr. Savage said, “is always an option.”
Along the way, they and their cohorts act like big kids with very big toys. They build things, break them, shoot them, crash them, and of course blow them up. For the most part, the science is incidental to the mayhem; the occasional explanation is sometimes presented with a disclaimer, "Warning: science content." And when they've already confirmed or busted a myth, they will scale up the experiment just to experience the big bang or crash.
Happily, the fun on Mythbusters isn't limited to the guys; Kari Byron, shown here with Buster the hapless crash test dummy, is one of several women who have been featured over the show's several seasons. She sometimes likes to call her parents just to say, "Guess what I did today?"
Photo of Lego figures: Brickshelf
Photo of Kari Byron with Buster: M5 industries

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Christine O'Donnell's Write-in Votes

Looking back on my election predictions, I was way off on one point: I predicted that no write-in candidate would garner more than 0.5 percent of the vote. As the News Journal reported yesterday, Christine O'Donnell garnered 11,127 votes as a write-in candidate for the U.S. Senate, 4.3 percent of the total votes. By the way, MOT Newbie (now blogging as Small Wonderings from the Diamond State) correctly guessed that "Holy Girl" (as he called her) would do better than 0.5 percent.
Write-in candidates require large numbers of highly motivated voters to make any sort of impression. Her candidacy benefitted from the poor showing by GOP nominee Jan Ting, who barely won the primary against O'Donnell and perennial candidate Mike Protack.
I'm not sure why it took ten days to learn the write-in vote for O'Donnell; maybe Joe at Merit-Bound Alley, who has been dogging this story will find out for us.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Milton Friedman's Intellectual Rigor

Economist Milton Friedman, an unabashed advocate of free markets, died yesterday. I disagree with much of what he wrote about government and politics, but I sure do admire his rigor, consistency and clarity of exposition. As economist Austan Goolsbee writes admiringly in the New York Times, Friedman was a passionate and effective debater:
Mr. Friedman loved to argue. They say he was the greatest debater in all of economics. As improbable as it sounds, given Mr. Friedman’s small frame and thick glasses, few who saw him would deny that he had an astounding amount of charisma. It probably explains why he was so successful on television. While being an academic powerhouse, he really could explain things clearly.
In a discipline known for mushy pronouncements, Friedman always staked out his position with unmistakable clarity, as reflected in his 1970 article (read by countless MBA students), "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits." Friedman characteristically gets right to the heart of the matter:
What does it mean to say that "business" has responsibilities? Only people can have responsibilities. A corporation is an artificial person and in this sense may have artificial responsibilities, but "business" as a whole cannot be said to have responsibilities, even in the vaguest sense.
It's typical Friedman. You may disagree, but you better think through your argument carefully. In this spirit, Friedman's influence goes beyond his advocacy of free markets. The force of his arguments has forced those who choose to differ to be more rigorous in their thinking. Unfortunately, many who claim his legacy haven't demonstrated the same clarity of thought.
Milton Friedman wholeheartedly supported George Bush's tax cuts, though I suspect he was not so approving of the spending increases we've seen in the last six years. So I was intriqued when Brad DeLong invoked Friedman two months ago:
As Milton Friedman puts it, to spend is to tax. Bush's spending increases--defense, Iraq, the Republican porkfest, the Medicare drug benefit--are still there, just as things you have charged to your VISA don't go away if you make only the minimum monthly payment. What George W. Bush has done has been to shift taxes from the present to the future--and also made future taxes uncertain, random, and thus extra-costly from a standard public finance view.
One wishes that the Republicans in charge had demonstrated Friedman's rigor and intellectual integrity when they plunged our government back into the abyss of deficit spending after a too-brief period of sound fiscal stewardship.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Jason at DailyKos on DelDems and the 50 State Strategy

Jason's diary entry (Delaware: A "50 State Strategy" case study) at DailyKos got bumped to the home page. In it he compares the healthy condition of the Delaware Democratic Party with that of the state GOP. The DelDems are keeping five staffers year-round, in contrast to the GOP which just fired its staff.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Funny, He Doesn't Look like a Senator

Jon Tester doesn't look the part, at least not to the Capitol police:
Even the Capitol police aren't quite used to Tester, who looks a bit different from most senators with his flat top haircut and fingers missing on his left hand. They asked him to empty his pockets on the security belt just outside the Capitol.
"Just like at the airport, you put it all through?" Tester asked.
The officer nodded, but quickly waved Tester through once he found out who he was. (AP)
He's not acting the part either. Two days after being elected senator from Montana, the Great Falls Tribune reports he went shopping at Sam's Club, where he bought a 55-gallon drum of oil.
Timothy Egan of the New York Times writes that Tester "will most likely be the only person in the world’s most exclusive club who knows how to butcher a cow or grease a combine."
I first took note of Tester in June of last year, when I wrote that he was going around the
state in a big rig that reads, "You're behind the right guy" on the back.
Photo: Great Falls Tribune/Rion Sanders

Monday, November 13, 2006

Purple America

In seeking meaning last week's election, I shy away from reductionist explanations in favor of interpretations that encompass more data and offer more shades of meaning. Which is why I recommend spending some time pondering the 2006 Purple America map by Robert Vanderbei of Princeton, in which the election results are presented, not as red or blue, but as shades of purple:
Note the changes from the 2004 map:
I don't know of any other graphic summary that so aptly represents the choices of millions of voters.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

They Were Expendable

On Veterans Day, I recommend a movie that honors those who serve by describing their resilience. In 1945, John Ford made They Were Expendable, one the very best movies about the WW II experience.
John Wayne and Robert Montgomery star in this film about an all but forgotten PT boat squadron in the Pacific that takes a pounding from the Japanese. The movie portrays men struggling to do their part in an enormous war effort, caught up in a war that stretches thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean. The scene that lingers in my mind is not one of heroism in battle, but of a rag-tag group of sailors marching across a lonely island, with no ship and no mission, still determined to do their duty.
The good guys don't win in the end, at least not in the movie convention of victory in battle. Instead they triumph by perservering in a conflict so immense that the plight of a few lost sailors is easily overlooked.

Delawareliberal on Delaware Tonight

Jason of Delawareliberal went on Channel 12's Delaware Tonight to discuss the impact of blogging on politics. Nancy Karibjanian, who admitted that she didn't know much about blogging, opened the segment by talking with Mike Wagner from the University of Delaware and Al Mascitti of WDEL before bringing on an actual blogger. (I hope Jason didn't feel like a zoo specimen.)
The traditional media cast a wary eye towards the blogs; Al commented that bloggers don't have editors and can put rumors out there without checking. (Don't talk radio shows do that as well?) In response, Jason pointed to the "self-regulating" nature of blogging:
Since people do comment, if you make a mistake or you get something wrong, people are quick to sort of point it out to you.
Jason said that Delaware blogs haven't yet had their "breakthrough year," though I'm not sure what that would be. But his appearance on Delaware Tonight was in itself a breakthrough. The program's "Political Perspectives" segment has a lineup that changes about as infrequently as the soviet politburo on the Kremlin wall.
And then last night, this guy Jason Scott, who started blogging a year ago and doesn't know the secret handshake, gets promoted to talking head, speaks cogently and is taken seriously.
ell done Jason. I hope they ask you back.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Return Day, Biden, Dean and DailyKos

Yesterday's post about Joe Biden's animated conversation with several young activists about bringing Democratic GOTV into the 21st century generated far more attention than I could have possibly expected. DailyKos diarist Delaware Dem picked up on it, just as James Carville was getting spanked for saying that Howard Dean should be replaced with Harold Ford. His diary post got bumped up to recommended status and has now drawn more than 110 comments.
When I wrote, "Biden enthusiastically endorsed Howard Dean's 50 state strategy," I didn't expect these eight words to generate as much attention as they did.
So here's a bit of background. The whole thing started when I introduced a young Party staffer to Biden, saying that Chris had been working GOTV in Wilmington, and had been hired thanks to Howard Dean's 50 state strategy. Biden immediately launched into his critique of the Democratic Party's GOTV effort, which set Chris back on his heels a bit, even though Biden was sure to let him know that he wasn't criticizing his efforts. Joe Biden is an imposing figure; afterwards, Chris and I compared the experience to being subjected to the Lyndon Johnson treatment.
Until this year, the coordinated campaign was something organized in a few weeks with the state Party pulling together whatever local organization was already in place with those volunteers the Party could muster to fill in the gaps. Thanks to the increased local staffing funded by the 50 state strategy, the state Party was able to get started several months in advance, instead of several weeks in advance. Biden's point was that we should be doing this year round, not just when election day approaches. If we do, he said we would "own Delaware" for the forseeable future.
Joe Biden may live much of his life at 30,000 feet, figuratively speaking (he rides Amtrak to work every day), but he hasn't forgotten the importance of turnout in winning elections. His upset win in 1972 that made him senator-elect before he turned 30 was due in large part to a huge volunteer effort. Even though he hasn't been seriously challenged in years (he won in 2002 with 58 percent), he has never forgotten the importance of precinct level politics.
Biden pointed out that Tuesday's turnout in RDs 1, 2 and 3 in Wilmington didn't break out of the 30-some percent range. Turnout in RD-4 was higher, due to a contested campaign for state representative. While Biden himself wasn't up for reelection this year, he was paying attention to the turnout numbers because of his son Beau's campaign for attorney general.
Just to be clear, I didn't hear Joe Biden offer an opinion of whether Howard Dean should stay or go as DNC Chairman. But based on the responses (up to 166 since I started writing this) to Delaware Dem's diary post, Joe Biden won himself a few fans among the netroots by emphatically voicing his understanding of what party building is all about. Many in the blogosphere have been arguing over who deserves credit for Tuesday's big win, but Biden was talking about the future, not the past.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Return Day and Party Building

I'm just back from Return Day, where I found myself part of an animated conversation with Joe Biden about bringing the Democratic GOTV effort into the 21st century. After being introduced to a young Democratic Party staffer who managed GOTV in Wilmington, Joe started in on how the GOP was way ahead of us, and how you can't build a base with a few temp staffers hired a few months before the election. Biden enthusiastically endorsed Howard Dean's 50 state strategy, and went on (at some length) to say that to really build a base takes four years, not four months.
I've been around Biden long enough to know when he's making conversation and when he's serious about an idea. At one point he was pulled aside by a staffer to have a short conversation with a supporter, and then returned to this conversation with me, the GOTV guy and two young Markell volunteers. Biden has plenty to occupy his time (he's on point for working out a new direction in Iraq with Bush administration), but he seemed serious enough to talk to a few young guys about high-tech GOTV, and mentioned raising money for party building here in Delaware.
Mike of DWA was on hand for the festivities. He enjoyed himself immensely, constantly searching the crowd for more politicians to pester with annoying questions.
Return Day is also an ocassion for announcing one's intentions for the next election. John Carney had his lapel stickers out proclaiming his interest in being governor. Matt Denn had stickers resembling license plates with the letters "MDLG08," which translates to Matt Denn Lieutenant Governor '08. Jack Markell's campaign astutely passed out stickers from the just concluded campaign. Having just been reelected, he could hardly announce his next campaign before being sworn in for this third term as treasurer. Mike Castle's campaign circulated Castle '08 buttons to let people know he's not ready to announce his retirement just yet.
Update: Having read this over, I want to correct any impression I may have created that I disapprove of Mike's blogging, including his "pestering" of politicians. I like Mike and enjoy hanging out with him at political events precisely because he is so spontaneous, in contrast to my buttoned-down approach to politics. What makes Mike so enjoyable is the endearing cheerfulness with which he throws himself into the fray.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My Prognostication Results

How smart am I? Read on.
Tom Carper won with 70.2 percent, better than my prediction of 66 percent.
As for the bonus question, we will have to see whether any write-in candidates garnered more than 0.5 percent of the vote.
Mike Castle won with only 57.2 percent, well below his customary 70 percent and shy of my prediction of 65 percent. Dennis Spivack did better than I expected with 38.8 percent.
I predicted that Michael Berg and Karen Hartley-Nagle would not combine to win more than 5 percent. Together they won 4.0 percent.
Did Castle get caught in the Democratic tide, or are voters signaling it may be time for him to step down in two years? It may be a bit of both.
DE-Attorney General:
As predicted, Beau Biden won over Ferris Wharton.
Tom Wagner won with only 53.7 percent against an opponent, Michael Dalto, who was barely visible. I had predicted 63 percent. Was Wagner caught in an anti-GOP tide, or does this result reveal some underlying discontent with the way he's done his job? I don’t know.
I got Markell’s winning percentage right with a prediction of 70 percent. Jack won 70.5%. I (along with Jason and MOT Newbie) correctly predicted that Jack Markell would post the highest statewide total. He did with 174,382 votes.
This is a remarkable result. Usually the biggest total goes to a winner at the top of the ticket (governor, senator or congressman). I don’t think it’s ever gone to the state treasurer. But Jack sent a real message with this result, which I attribute to good old-fashioned retail politics that included pizza with voters in every one of 41 representative districts and a top-to-bottom bicycle tour of Delaware.
Delaware General Assembly:
I predicted that two seats in the State House would change hands: Gerald Brady proved me right by winning in RD-4, a seat the GOP had held for three decades. I was wrong about RD-20, where Nick Manolakos beat Richard Korn. I and many others were surprised by John Kowalko’s win over incumbent Stephanie Ulbrich in RD-25. (Celia listed this one as Safe Republican.) The third Democratic pickup was in RD-33, where Robert Walls defeated Ulysses S. Grant.
As for the State Senate, I correctly predicted that no seats would change hands this year. Despite the fascination with Tyler Nixon among my blogging colleagues, Harris McDowell won easily with 64.6 percent. The only close result was Catherine Cloutier’s narrow win over Pat Morrison in the 5th Senate District. Maybe the Democratic tide did trickle down to the local level.
U.S. Senate:
I went 9 for 10 on the biggest Senate races. The one I missed is Claire McCaskill in Missouri. Props to Jason who called all ten. Dave at First State Politics predicted a net gain of only two Senate seats, understandable given that he was working for the GOP, even though it was for local candidates. It’s hard to be against you own team.
Of course it may take a while to count and recount all of the ballots in Virginia and Montana, but the only thing worse than being ahead by a narrow margin is being behind by a narrow margin.
U.S. House of Representatives:
I predicted that Democrats would gain 26 seats, Right now the number looks like 27 to as many as 32. I think I was hedging my bets a bit.
As for what it all means, we'll have plenty of time for that.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Gerald Brady Wins in RD4

Live from Brady HQ: Gerald Brady is the new state representative for the 4th District.

Election Day

Hello fellow citizens. While I'm out doing my duty for my country, my party and my neighborhood, some of my colleagues are blogging up a storm. Jason and Dave at DWA are posting during the day. As for me, I've got to get back out there.

Monday, November 06, 2006

TommyWonk's Prognostications

Anyone who’s been through a few campaigns knows that there’s a big difference between what you think will happen and what you hope will happen. So, putting aside my hopes and fears, here are my best guesses of who will win and lose tomorrow.
Tom Carper will win with 66 percent of the vote.
As for my bonus question: Despite the efforts of some bloggers to push her write-in candidacy, Karen Peterson will not garner more than 0.5 percent of the vote.
Will Mike Castle win with his customary 70 percent?
No, he will make do with 65 percent.
Will Dennis Spivack break 30 percent? Yes, 34 percent.
As for whether Michael Berg and Karen Hartley-Nagle will combine to win more than 5 percent, the answer is no.
DE-Attorney General:
This is the hardest to predict. But I think Beau Biden will win over Ferris Wharton.
What will Jack Markell’s winning percentage be?
A smart 70 percent.
Tom Wagner’s will win with 63 percent.
Statewide bonus question:
Who will post the highest statewide vote total (not percentage) this year?
Jack Markell with 162,000 votes
Delaware General Assembly:
Which House seats will change party hands this year?
RD-1 [typo, I meant RD-4], RD-20
Which State Senate seats will change party hands this year?
U.S. Senate:
How many seats will Democrats gain? 5
CT: Joe Liebermann (CFL) will defeat Ned Lamont (D)
MD: Benjamin Cardin (D) will win over Michael Steele (R)
MO: Jim Talent (R) will prevail over Claire McCaskil (D)
MT: Jon Tester (D) will unseat Conrad Burns (R)
NJ: Bob Menendez (D) will prevail over Thomas Kean Jr. (R)
OH: Sherrod Brown (D) will unseat Mike DeWine (R)
PA: Bob Casey Jr. (D) will unseat Rick Santorum (R)
RI: Sheldon Whitehouse (D) will unseat Lincoln Chaffee (R)
TN: Bob Corker (R) will win over Harold Ford (D)
VA: Jim Webb (D) will narrowly defeat George Allen (R)
U.S. House of Representatives:
The Democrats will gain 26 seats.
Come Wednesday, I will compare the predictions submitted and you will find out who's the smartest of them all.
Dave at
First State Politics has posted his rather optimistic predictions here.
If you'd like to register your predictions, you can do so in the comments or by emailing me at

Even Conservatives Are Calling Iraq a Failure

The chorus of voices lamenting our misadventure in Iraq grows almost daily. This editorial in the Military Times has gotten a great deal of attention:
“So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion ... it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth.”
That statement was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Marguerite Higgins more than a half-century ago during the Korean War.
But until recently, the “hard bruising” truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington.
One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “mission accomplished,” the insurgency is “in its last throes,” and “back off,” we know what we’re doing, are a few choice examples.
Steve Clemons at The Washington Note comments on the unseemly spectacle of neocons running for cover:
And now as the neocons are huddled in duck and cover positions, trying to blame Bush's "dysfunctional administration" for the failings in Iraq -- Richard Perle issues a salvo against Vanity Fair for issuing tidbits of his juicy assault on Bush "before the election."
The American Conservative has declared Iraq to be a failure:
Faced on Sept. 11, 2001 with a great challenge, President Bush made little effort to understand who had attacked us and why—thus ignoring the prerequisite for crafting an effective response. He seemingly did not want to find out, and he had staffed his national-security team with people who either did not want to know or were committed to a prefabricated answer.
As a consequence, he rushed America into a war against Iraq, a war we are now losing and cannot win, one that has done far more to strengthen Islamist terrorists than anything they could possibly have done for themselves. Bush’s decision to seize Iraq will almost surely leave behind a broken state divided into warring ethnic enclaves, with hundreds of thousands killed and maimed and thousands more thirsting for revenge against the country that crossed the ocean to attack them. The invasion failed at every level: if securing Israel was part of the administration’s calculation—as the record suggests it was for several of his top aides—the result is also clear: the strengthening of Iran’s hand in the Persian Gulf, with a reach up to Israel’s northern border, and the elimination of the most powerful Arab state that might stem Iranian regional hegemony.
When a leading conservative magazine make the case for change in such stark terms, we've gone well past a tipping point.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ahmad Chalabi and the U.S. Misadventure in Iraq

For those who believe that Saddam Hussein's conviction somehow validates the U.S. misadventure in Iraq, allow me to recommend this lengthy piece in the New York Times Magazine on Ahmad Chalabi, the neocons' man who would be in charge of Iraq, were it not for the Iraqi people themselves.
Chalabi, who hadn't lived in Iraq for decades, managed to get the U.S. to fund his Iraqi National Congress, whose sole purpose was to push the U.S. into war. Chalabi's zeal in pushing for the U.S. to invade Iraq was matched only by the neocons' eagerness to accept the dubious intelligence the INC fed us.
A second report, released by the Senate Intelligence Committee in September 2006, reached far more damning conclusions. The report states flatly that Chalabi’s group introduced defectors to American intelligence who directly influenced two key judgments in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, which preceded the Senate vote on the Iraq war: that Hussein possessed mobile biological-weapons laboratories and that he was trying to reconstitute his nuclear program. The report said that the I.N.C. provided a large volume of flawed intelligence to the United States about Iraq, saying the group “attempted to influence United States policy on Iraq by providing false information through defectors directed at convincing the United States that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and had links to terrorists.” (Five Republican senators disagreed with the report’s conclusions about the I.N.C.)
Chalabi’s denials are unconvincing for another reason. His role in the preparations for war was not just as a source for American intelligence agencies. He was America’s chief public advocate for war, spreading information gathered by his own intelligence network to newspapers, magazines, television programs and Congress. (A New York Times reporter, Judith Miller, was one of Chalabi’s primary conduits; in an e-mail message sent in 2003 that has been widely quoted since, she wrote that Chalabi “has provided most of the front-page exclusives on W.M.D. to our paper” and that the Army unit she was then traveling with was “using Chalabi’s intell and document network for its own W.M.D. work.”) Indeed, the press proved even more gullible than the intelligence experts in the American government. In a June 2002 letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the I.N.C. listed 108 news articles based on information provided by the group. The list included articles concerning some of the wildest claims about Hussein, including that he had collaborated in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Chalabi and the INC apparently knew how to cover their tracks enough to amplify the impact of their bogus intelligence:
Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell in Bush’s first term, adds a final turn to the labyrinth. In the frantic days leading up to Powell’s speech at the United Nations in February 2003, when he laid out the case for war, Wilkerson said he spent many nights sleeping on a couch in George Tenet’s office. During those preparations, Wilkerson told me, Powell insisted that every point he would make at the U.N. had to be supported by at least three independent sources.
“We had three or four sources for every item that was substantive in his presentation,” Wilkerson told me in an interview in Washington. “Powell insisted on that. But what I am hearing now, though, is that a lot of these sources sort of tinged and merged back into a single source, and that inevitably that single source seems to be either recommended by, set up by, orchestrated by, introduced by, or whatever, by somebody in the I.N.C.”
In other words, we were played. How badly? You may not want to know, but you really need to know.
The neocons' hero has all along maintained significant ties with Iraq:
In late 2005, I accompanied Chalabi on a trip to Iran, in part to solve the riddle. We drove eastward out of Baghdad, in a convoy as menacing as the one we had ridden in south to Mushkhab earlier in the year. After three hours of weaving and careering, the plains of eastern Iraq halted, and the terrain turned sharply upward into a thick ridge of arid mountains. We had come to Mehran, on one of history’s great fault lines, the historic border between the Ottoman and Persian Empires. As we crossed into Iran, the wreckage and ruin of modern Iraq gave way to swept streets and a tidy border post with shiny bathrooms. Another world.
An Iranian cleric approached and shook Chalabi’s hand. Then he said something curious: “We are disappointed to hear that you won’t be staying in the Shiite alliance,” he said. “We were really hoping you’d stay.” The border between Iraq and Iran had, for the moment, disappeared.
More curious, though, was the authority that Chalabi seemed to carry in Iran, which, after all, has been accused of assisting Iraqi insurgents and otherwise stirring up chaos there. For starters, Chalabi asked me if I wanted to come along on his Iranian trip only the night before he left — and then procured a visa for me in a single day: a Friday, during the Eid holiday, when the Iranian Embassy was closed. Under ordinary circumstances, an American reporter might wait weeks.
Then there was the executive jet. When we arrived at the border, Chalabi ducked into a bathroom and changed out of his camouflage T-shirt and slacks and into a well-tailored blue suit. Then we drove to Ilam, where an 11-seat Fokker jet was idling on the runway of the local airport. We jumped in and took off for Tehran, flying over a dramatic landscape of canyons and ravines. We landed in Iran’s smoggy capital, and within a couple of hours, Chalabi was meeting with the highest officials of the Iranian government. One of them was Ali Larijani, the national security adviser.
I'm not equiped to judge the full duplicity of Ahmad Chalabi's dealings with the neocons, the U.S. intelligence agencies, the Iranians and the various sides in Iraq's sectarian divisions.
What I can say is that this piece is worth reading for several reasons: First to understand how a U.S. funded exile could play the U.S. so badly. Second to understand how the complexity of the situation in Iraq and the region is beyond the capability of our leaders to describe or even comprehend. Third, to understand out that this man whom the neocons held up as their choice to lead Iraq has in fact significant ties with some powerful people in Iran.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Vote Democratic for a Change in Course in Iraq

Think that the Bush administration is ready to sit down for a nuanced discussion on our options in Iraq? Think again.
They're not listening. In an interview with ABC News, Dick Cheney said it's "full speed ahead" in Iraq:
"It may not be popular with the public — it doesn't matter in the sense that we have to continue the mission and do what we think is right. And that's exactly what we're doing," Cheney said. "We're not running for office. We're doing what we think is right."
With all due respect Mr. Cheney, what the voters think does matter. You may not be up for election, but the Congress is, and last I checked the Congress has a say in the conduct of foreign policy.
Dick Cheney has said it as plainly as possible. There is one way, and one way only, to change the course of Bush's misadventure in Iraq, and that is to elect Democrats to Congress.
Photo: ABC News

Friday, November 03, 2006

Do Your Part for a Democratic Victory on Tuesday

With the election a few days away, it’s time to turn from the larger political discourse and get down to cases. The politically active among us have seen and heard just about all we need to know about why we should support our candidates, and it’s time for execution, not explication.
So if you’re looking for a way to help on the ground, I recommend getting plugged into one of the campaigns for the General Assembly. Why? Because these are the campaigns where volunteers can make the greatest difference. I have a short list of candidates for the General Assembly in northern New Castle County who are, in their own ways, real policy wonks.
  • Pat Morrison is challenging Catherine Cloutier in the 5th Senate District, focusing on issues like child care, education and health care. To help out, go to her website at
  • David Sokola is State Senator for the 8th District and a quiet wonk who does his homework. He narrowly won in ’04 and the GOP is gunning for him again this year. To help him out, visit his webiste at
  • Diana McWilliams is in her first term representing the 5th RD. I met Diana when we both were supporting Wes Clark in '04. To help, you can call her at 765-2053.
  • Gerald Brady, profiled here yesterday, is running for the open House seat in the 4th RD. He’s also my city councilman, and one of the hardest-working elected officials I know. You can call him at 655-1373.
This is by no means an exclusive or exhaustive list. The DelDems Website has a complete list of candidates. If you don’t have a hot local race in your Representative or Senate district, then I have several suggestions:
  • Head over to the DelDems GOTV page or call (302) 328-9036 to volunteer. The Democratic Party is running what’s called the coordinated campaign — the statewide get out the vote effort — for which statewide candidates team up with local candidates.
  • Contact Dennis Spivack, who is running an uphill battle to challenge Mike Castle and could use your help. Yes, Castle has ascended to the rarified level of Delaware Institution over the years, but if you think he needs to be held accountable for supporting George Bush on Iraq and energy policy, to name two issues, then get out and help Dennis Spivack make a good showing.
  • Jack Markell is going to win big, of course, but he still could use your help. As my loyal readers have noticed, I like Jack because he’s genuine policy wonk, and loves to implement his ideas into working programs that affect people’s economic well-being.
For my part, I'll be working with the GOTV effort for Gerald Brady and the Democratic Party on Tuesday. One reason I'm a Democrat is that I've learned that political results come when people of like minds band together. Whether you work for your favorite candidate or for the Party as a whole, you'll sleep better knowing you've done your part.

Vote Democratic to Restore Accountability to Government

One of the basic functions of the legislative branch is to hold the executive branch accountable for its shortcomings in policy and management. In this regard, the Republican leadership has failed to do its duty.
The Boston Globe ran this story back in May on the GOP's abdication of congressional oversight in recent years:
Back in the mid-1990s, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, aggressively delving into alleged misconduct by the Clinton administration, logged 140 hours of sworn testimony into whether former president Bill Clinton had used the White House Christmas card list to identify potential Democratic donors.
In the past two years, a House committee has managed to take only 12 hours of sworn testimony about the abuse of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
The jarring comparison reflects the way Congress has conducted its oversight role during the GOP's era of one-party rule in Washington.
As Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann point out in the current Foreign Affairs (subscription needed to read entire essay), congressional oversight has a long, honorable and remarkably non-partisan tradition:
Perhaps the most noteworthy effort was the [House] Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, which was created during the buildup to World War II to investigate alleged overspending in the construction of a camp for draftees in south-central Missouri. After visiting the site and talking to the president, in February 1941 then Senator Harry Truman proposed the creation of a special committee. Within a few months, the body had begun a long series of hearings. "At Truman's insistence," the Truman biographer David McCullough has written, "any member of the Senate was welcome to ...take part in the hearing... There was no browbeating of witnesses, no unseemly outbursts tolerated on the part of anybody." In the weeks after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt was urged to try to disband the body. He demurred. The committee produced more than 50 reports, all unanimous, and conducted more than 500 hearings. It is said to have saved the country $15 billion.
As we all know, Truman wasn't punished for his effective work with the special committee. Quite the opposite; he was elevated to the vice presidency.
But oversight, once considered a patriotic duty, has fallen out of favor with the current Republican regime. You may have read of the recent report of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), which said that thousands of weapons paid for by U.S. tax dollars cannot be accounted for.
Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., who serves as the SIGIR, is hardly the sort who would set out to create trouble for the administration. He's worked for George W. Bush in the White House, and previously in the governor's office in Texas. In a recent interview on NPR, Bowen seemed at pains to point out that much of the reconstruction work is moving forward.
Now, if you think that the mission in Iraq is worth the loss of thousands of lives and expediture of billions of dollars, you might think it's important enough to do it well. Not so the gang in charge. As the
New York Times reports, the GOP leadership in Congress is shutting down the Inspector General's office:
And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.
The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.
Even the Senator who chairs the relevant committee was taken aback at the last minute provision in the bill:
Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who followed the bill closely as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, says that she still does not know how the provision made its way into what is called the conference report, which reconciles differences between House and Senate versions of a bill.
Neither the House nor the Senate version contained such a termination clause before the conference, all involved agree.
“It’s truly a mystery to me,” Ms. Collins said. “I looked at what I thought was the final version of the conference report and that provision was not in at that time.”
“The one thing I can confirm is that this was a last-minute insertion,” she said.
For years, we have been led to believe that GOP moderates like Susan Collins and Mike Castle would provide the adult supervision to ensure that the majority would behave itself. Instead what we see is an unchecked Republican majority evading the most reasonable constraint on its power when it suits its purpose.
If the Republican regime in Washington refuses provide any legitimate oversight of the government they control, then we can impose such oversight upon them. There is one way to restore accountability to federal government, and that is to vote Democratic in the election on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gerald Brady for State Representative, 4th District

Gerald Brady is my City Councilman, a job he has held for ten years in a district that used to elect Republicans. Now he's running for State Representative, and offers one of the best opportunities for a Democratic pick-up in the General Assembly. So my disclosure that I'm helping Gerald get elected shouldn't come as a surprise.
Gerald (pictured here with Jack Markell) is an old school guy who does his homework, seems to know every family in the district he represents, and loves the nuts-and-bolts work of governing. For instance, he's chair of Council's Public Works Committee, and as such he has worked hard to improve the safety and reliability of our water supply. It's hardly glamorous but essential to a well-run city.
He sponsored the ordinance that created the Forty Acres Neighborhood Conservation District, the first of its kind in Delaware. He co-sponsored the ordinance that led to the removal of more than 100 billboards in Wilmington.
When zoning issues have come up, he's rolled up his sleeves, gotten people involved and never been afraid to take on developers. (In contrast, his opponent spoke of respecting "property rights" when asked about one recent zoning case.)
He also does constituent service as well as anyone I know, and can be counted on to remain close to those he represents.
Gerald wants to promote statewide recycling to reduce landfill accumulation. (Right now the city is conducting a pilot curbside recycling program in my neighborhood.) He wants the state to become a leader in promoting the development of renewable energy sources. He wants to continue to reduce water pollution through improved stormwater and sewer management. Tonight, City Council votes on an ordinance he's sponsoring to engage an engineering firm to further reduce the combined sewer overflow problem in Wilmington.
The State House of Representatives is run by the Republican caucus, which is run by Wayne Smith, the most doctrinaire conservative in the General Assembly. The only way to change that is to elect Democrats in districts previously held by Republicans. If we don't win here in the 4th, it won't happen.
Gerald is running an old-fashioned, retail campaign. I think he's knocked on just about every door in the district. He plans to win on Election Day using people power, with his friends and neighbors spreading the word and getting people to the polls. If you'd like to help, you can volunteer by calling his campaign at 655-1373. Tell 'em TommyWonk sent you.

Take the TommyWonk Blogger Prognostication Challenge!

OK, folks, it's time for the TommyWonk Blogger Prognostication Challenge.
Anyone who’s been through a few campaigns knows that there’s a big difference between what you think will happen and what you hope will happen. So here’s the challenge: Putting aside which candidates you’re rooting for or against, who will win and lose on November 7?
What will Tom Carper’s vote percentage be?
Will any write-in protest candidates garner more than 0.5 percent of the vote?
Will Mike Castle win with his customary 70 percent?
Will Dennis Spivack break 30 percent?
Will Michael Berg and Karen Hartley-Nagle combine to win more than 5 percent?
DE-Attorney General:
Beau Biden or Ferris Wharton?
What will Jack Markell’s winning percentage be?
What will Tom Wagner’s winning percentage be?
Statewide bonus question:
Who will post the highest statewide vote total (not percentage) this year?
Delaware General Assembly:
Which House seats will change party hands this year?
Which State Senate seats will change party hands this year?
U.S. Senate:
How many seats will Democrats gain?
Who will win these ten most contested seats?
CT: Joe Liebermann (CFL) or Ned Lamont (D)
MD: Benjamin Cardin (D) or Michael Steele (R)
MO: Jim Talent (R) or Claire McCaskil (D)
MT: Conrad Burns (R) or Jon Tester (D)
NJ: Bob Menendez (D) or Thomas Kean Jr. (R)
OH: Mike DeWine (R) or Sherrod Brown (D)
PA: Rick Santorum (R) or Bob Casey Jr. (D)
RI: Lincoln Chaffee (R) or Sheldon Whitehouse (D)
TN: Harold Ford (D) or Bob Corker (R)
VA: George Allen (R) or Jim Webb (D)
U.S. House of Representatives:
How many seats will Democrats gain?
The TommyWonk Blogger Prognostication Challenge is open to fellow bloggers, political operatives and all my loyal readers. To play, copy the questions and paste them with your answers in an email to by midnight Monday, November 6.
I will announce the winner, runners-up and various honorable mentions on Wednesday, November 8.
I will not publish any information from anyone's entries until after the polls close. As for my predictions, I will post them on Monday.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Big Trend towards Democrats among Likely Voters

For those struggling to make sense of the avalanche of polls this week, this result from the Cook Political Report/RT Strategies Poll could be of enormous significance.
Cong. Generic Ballot (RV): Dem 52 Rep 39
Cong. Generic Ballot (MLV): Dem 61 Rep 35
(RV = registered voters, MLV = most likely voters)
The generic congressional question has been trending in the Democrats' favor for some time now. But when the survey screens for likely voters, the numbers shift 13 points further to the Democratic column. If this result is accurate, it means that those inclined to vote Democratic are significantly more likely to go to the polls than are those inclined to vote Republican.
This result is not an outlier, but reflects a trend that has been growing since September. Responses to questions about how likely one is to vote generally are more meaningful as Election Day approaches.
I don't think this result is predictive of turnout in Delaware, since we don't have a close race for Congress. But if this result does foreshadow turnout across the country, then it could be a big night for Democrats.

The Fate of the Lonely GOP Moderates

GOP moderates are facing up to the likely loss of some colleagues, and what little influence they have left, to in next week's election. Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post offers little sympathy for those centrist Republicans who perversely blame Democrats for their loss of power within their party:
"There is no one who has voted more often with the Democrats than Linc Chafee," Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, told the New York Times of her Rhode Island colleague, who is trailing Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in the polls. "Yet that didn't stop them from going after him with everything they had."
And we all remember how moderate Republicans stopped the conservatives who control their party from going after moderate Democrats in previous elections, right? How they pleaded with Tom DeLay not to push through his mid-decade reapportionment of Texas, which led to the ousting of such veteran conservative Democrats as Rep. Charles Stenholm? How they deplored the campaign that Republican Saxby Chambliss waged against Georgia Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, who'd lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, for being soft on national security?
Indeed, it was precisely the Republicans' success at defeating the centrist and center-right Democrats in the South over the past two decades that has driven the GOP steadily rightward. And for all their protestations of moderation, the northern Republicans -- from Susan Collins to Lincoln Chafee to Rep. Chris Shays -- abetted that transformation.
Delaware's Mike Castle will likely be returned to Congress, where he will gather with a shrunken cadre of his middle of the road colleagues. Do I feel sorry for this remnant of old-school centrists? I do not.
The Republican Party has relentlessly moved to the right while villifying those who disagree with the misadventure in Iraq as rooting for the terrorists. And in the face of a public repudiation of their government, they have unleashed the most appalling onslaught of last minute attack ads I can remember.
The GOP's leaders chose this course for their party and their country, and now they are facing the consequences of their decisions. Karl Rove was labeled a boy genius for his strategy of ruling the country from a narrow conservative base, but his strategy is unravelling. Our president, who proclaimed himself "a uniter not a divider" in the 2000 campaign, is finding that his fear tactics have lost their fearful sting.
As a Democrat, I am heartened by the prospect of enlarging our base and becoming more of a national party. The GOP is on its way to becoming a more regional party, and its leaders must accept the responsibility for the decisions that have them to this moment.